Since I’ve begun this New Year celebrating the glorious piles of books I have in my life, I wondered if the spiritual practice of Lectio Divina could be useful for Unitarian Universalists.
According to Wikipedia, Lectio Divina is Latin for divine reading, or "holy reading," and represents a traditional Christian practice of prayer and scriptural reading intended to promote communion with God and to increase in the knowledge of God’s Word.
It is a way of praying with scripture that calls one to study, ponder, listen and, perhaps sing and rejoice in the words of the divine. It can generate a profound understanding deep within the soul.
Although we have a diverse relationship to divinity in our communities, I think the practice can be easily adapted for UUs. If we assume that ‘divine word’ is present in the holy texts from all world religions and in poetry and essays, and if we believe that the words of others, divine or mortal, have deep value to us, then this practice can be truly enriching.
So here’s how it goes
Choose the writing you wish to pray. Short sections from the Bible the Vedas or portions of the Psalms the Tao te Ching or poems are easiest. Choose something new or a piece that you have loved for a long time; a new meaning may come to you.
- Set aside a time and place in which you will not be disturbed
- Settle into a posture in which you comfortable but alert and attentive
- Take a few moments to follow your breath … it should be natural, deep, unhurried
The four phases of this practice should flow naturally as you engage with the reading.
Phase One – Lectio: reading–What does this passage say?
Read the text slowly, gently, out loud. Savor the reading, feel the words in your mouth, listening for the "still, small voice" of a particular word or phrase that says, "I am for you today."
Phase Two – Meditatio: meditation–What does this passage say to me?
Take the word or phrase into yourself. Slowly repeat it several times out loud, allowing it to interact with your inner world. Let your imagination engage the text.
- This is not an intellectual exercise, allow yourself to surrender to the words on the page let them penetrate deeply into our being until you become one with the text.
- Notice as a word or phrase takes hold of you. It will seem to speak directly to you and your present situation. Take in this gift by repeating just the word or phrase.
- This is not a mantra. This is not about quieting the mind, but rather about listening deeply and allowing the words to bring their genuine meaning to you.
- The words may bring joy, sadness, curiosity or any other sincere emotion. Experience the emotion.
- Continue to sit quietly letting the words wash over you. Repeat the words aloud.
Phase Three – Oratio: prayer- What does the universe say to me, and what do I say to the universe through the text?
Speak to your inner self as the one who knows, loves and accepts you. Experience this divine word or phrase as a means to bless and transform the thoughts and images that are awakened in you. Express gratitude for what you have found in your heart. You may choose at this time to write your inner conversation in a journal.
Phase Four – Contemplatio: contemplation- I am still, resting in divine presence, and letting kindness work through my mind and heart.
Finally rest in the grace of this world. Let go of words and images. Rejoice that grace is with you in silence, spiritual rest, and inner receptivity.
Re-Engaging Daily Life-What possibilities does this open up for me?
As you come out of contemplation and prepare to resume your normal activities, consider what difference this text will make in how you act in this world?
What challenges does it pose? What are you called to do?
As with any Wellspring activity, we end with the question, “So what?” Spiritual exploration and practice is always fulfilled by action. It informs the way we choose to live in this world. So if words have meaning for you, as they do for me, try this practice for a while and see how you are transformed.